In a significant move towards addressing the issue of hunger in the city, the Delhi High Court today backed the Delhi Government’s free meal project and directed the continuation of the scheme in the national capital. The court’s decision came after it took suo motu cognisance of the stoppage of free meals in night shelters, which raised serious concerns about the welfare of the homeless. The Delhi Government’s Standing Council clearly presented before the High Court bench that the Delhi Government wants to give free meals at night shelters, and the court agreed that it was the responsibility of the state to ensure that every person had access to food.

The free meal project, which was initiated by the Delhi Government has been providing nutritious meals to thousands of people in the city’s night shelters. The scheme has been highly appreciated by the public, and it has received significant support from various NGOs and civil society groups.

During the COVID 19 pandemic, there were frequent lockdowns in the capital and daily wagers staying in the capital were staying without work and food. As an emergent welfare measure, the Kejriwal Government decided to distribute free meals to Night Shelters. As Akshay Patra is a very prestigious Organization, which has got contracts on nomination basis in many other states, the contract for supplying free meals was given to Akshay Patra on nomination basis.

Though Akshay Patra is known for its charitable activities, certain officials of the Finance Department of Delhi had been blocking the payments to Akshay Patra for many months and not releasing payments to Akshay Patra.

The Finance Dept had earlier stopped renumeration of Doctors of Muholla Clinics, Pensions to Old Age citizens, removal of Data Entry Operators manning the OPD counters in Delhi Govt Hospitals .The officers of Finance Dept was earlier found guilty by Petitions Committee of Delhi Legislative Assembly and had asked the Cheif Secretary to inquire the matter and submit the report.

Before the bench of the High Court of Delhi, the Standing Council of Delhi Government conveyed that the state government intends to provide free meals in its night shelters. However, the officials of the Finance Department of Delhi are creating hurdles in the same. The High Court readily agreed that free meal service in the night shelters must be continued. The High Court was also gracious enough to allow the Delhi Government to continue with the contract with Akshay Patra.

Though the Standing Council clearly briefed about the intent of the Delhi Government and CM Shri Arvind Kejriwal to provide free meals in the night shelters, one director of DUSIB took a contrary stand in the High Court. A show cause notice has been issued to the officer for taking a contrary stand.

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